In reversal, Panasonic keeps payloads plan close to its vest

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Wondering where the details are about Panasonic Avionics’ “XTS” high-throughput Ku-band satellite capacity? You’re not alone.

The company announced plans for a custom payload in early 2016 and upped those plans to six custom-built payloads in a mid-2016 discussion. With regular promises of details since then left unfulfilled the company announced a revised architecture earlier this year, still keeping six payloads but now combining them onto three satellites. And the designs may yet shift again.

Speaking to RGN at the recent Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, Panasonic’s David Bruner acknowledged that the company has changed its approach to sharing such details with the market. Bruner believes that disclosures made in the past worked against the company’s interests, helping competitors to respond more quickly to market trends.

“In the past we wanted to give people confidence that it would be there so we’d announce three or four years in advance. All it did was help others know what we were doing,” he said. Those days are over.

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Bruner will now rely on customers trusting that, “We’ll deliver what we need for capacity when we need to,” holding details of the various payloads closer to the vest. Of course, some of that demand is more obvious than not, leading to a hint around what the next news will be.

“[I]n Asia it is affecting some decisions by some of our customers there,” he said. “We’ll need to disclose it to them anyways. We don’t even have [Eutelsat] 172B in service yet and we already have to augment capacity. In 2-3 years we’ll run out in a lot of the areas it covers. We know when we’re going to run out and the lead-time to replace, and that’s already occurred. We already had to make a decision and plan the next asset.

He stopped short of providing details of what the additional coverage in Asia will look like, but expect many more spot beams blanketing the region as demand spirals up. Bruner cites Asia as the fastest growing region in the world with respect to inflight connectivity bandwidth demand, “almost equivalent to the rest of the world”.

For other regions, however, “if I can hold on 2-3 more months, I will. We’re holding off on specifics for what’s happening in 2019-2020.” It doesn’t radically change performance. It is just more capacity to support more airplanes and lower cost structure which is really important.

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